New biz is meatless in Freeland

After spending 12 years in New York, a Freeland native has returned to Whidbey Island to kickstart her plant-based meat alternative business.

Anna Zefferys is the founder of Bart’s Better Food, a company that makes a plant-based meat alternative that can be used to replace beef in burgers. As she started her business on the island, she found herself relying on the local community for feedback and support.

She currently sells the meat substitute in Payless, the Goose, the Bayview Farmers market, the Freeland Cafe, a farmers market in Everett and at a co-op in Seattle.

“Our local stores have been incredible to work with,” Zefferys said. “Especially as a start up business you look for helpful people wherever you go.”

She sources some of the ingredients from local retailers. Currently she is in the fifth version of her recipe. The core ingredients of the plant-based meat include red beets, tomato paste, lentils and hemp seeds. The ingredients are ground together at the Island County Fairgrounds commercial kitchen with an assortment of spices.

The result is a reddish-pinkish paste that is sold in a white plastic container.

Zefferys started tinkering with the recipe in 2016 and selling her product at the Bayview Farmers Market. She used the feedback from patrons to perfect the ingredients. She wanted to create a vegan alternative that she wouldn’t get sick of.

“The Bayview Farmers Market has been amazing for incubating and just getting feedback from people,” she said. “You get immediate feedback from customers at the farmer’s market, and that’s so essential when you’re starting a business from scratch.”

Bart’s Better Food, named after one of her cousins in Ireland, is Zefferys’ third business. She started with designing and selling handbags in New York before switching to mobile payments phone apps for small businesses.

While Bart’s is competing with nationwide companies that make plant-based alternatives to meat, Zefferys said that the market is never too saturated.

“There could be a shift in the environment or a new concept or idea and you open up an entirely new channel of revenue,” she said.

She did experience a few setbacks with the onset of COVID-19. She was unable to source ingredients from one of her suppliers and meetings she had with other retailers were cancelled during the height of the pandemic.

But as she moves forward she hopes to one day sell the raw food material across the state and create jobs on the island.

“The bigger vision is to make this a business that isn’t impacted by the seasons on Whidbey that hires people,” Zefferys said.

Anna Zefferys, Founder of Bart’s Better Food cooks the plant-based meat alternative into a burger.                                Photo by Brandon Taylor

Anna Zefferys, Founder of Bart’s Better Food cooks the plant-based meat alternative into a burger. Photo by Brandon Taylor